Within Australia, knowledge amongst locals that Australian Rules football is being played overseas is far from commonplace. It does gain small mention however, at larger events such as the International Cup, Arafura Games, Barassi Youth Tournament and occasionally, when a national team tours Australia.
Japan is lucky to be one of the more recognised countries that play the game outside of Australia (albeit on an amateur basis). Aside from mainstream media, World Footy News has also run numerous stories on both the clubs in Japan and their representative squad, the Samurais. Yet what most people aren't aware is that there are actually two separate football entities in Japan, the Japan Australian Football League (JAFL) and the Nippon Australian Football League (NAFL). Almost all previous attention has been directed towards the JAFL and their representative side, the Samurais, with two brief mentions of the NAFL, in Four teams, but in two leagues - footy in Kansai, Japan and Japan AFL 2006 Preview.
In a previous story we reported on Brian Dixon's world tour to promote Aussie Rules, visiting China, Argentina, the Philippines and Cuba. While in Calcutta last month he held a number of clinics with local schools, putting down the foundations for four clubs in the metropolis and the potential for Indian representation at the 2008 International Cup.
Recently a group of current and ex-AFL footballers were led around northern Vietnam on a CARE Challenge, visiting CARE projects and meeting local HIV/AIDS sufferers. The culmination of the trip also saw a footy match played between the CARE AFL All Stars and the Hanoi Swans.
The Essendon Football Club is sending seven of its younger players on a personal development trip to Japan this week. As part of the trip, the players and coaching staff will hold clinics in Tokyo and Osaka on behalf of the AFL. Essendon's website also reports that the Essendon staff will be testing the local Japanese players to determine which two will join Essendon for 2007 preseason training.
The fourth annual Bali 9s Tournament was held on October 8th with home-town heroes the Bali Geckos sneaking home in a thrilling grand final victory over the Malaysian Warriors.
The Bali 9's remains a unique fixture on the Asian Footy calendar. It provides the only opportunity for Asian and Australian Aussie Rules Teams to play each other, attracting a number of touring Aussie sides since 2002, including the Western Whalers, Bateman's Bay Sea Hawks, Balmain Tigers and Keysborough Wombats.
In a sudden burst of enthusiasm for the international growth of Aussie Rules both Geelong and Port Adelaide's coaches have spoken positively about the sport getting a foothold outside of Australia. Mark "Bomber" Thompson, coach of the Cats, speaking ahead of his club's match in London against Port, singled out China as a highly desirable market to push into, speculating that his club may play there next year (presumably against Melbourne). There's also an online poll WFN readers may be interested in answering.
Tianjin Normal University, China's first all-Chinese Australian Football team, will take on the all-Australian Beijing Bombers on October 22nd. This will be the first ever China vs Australia game of Aussie Rules Football, to be played at the International School Beijing at 1pm. Five of the best Chinese players from this match will then be sponsored by the Beijing Bombers to join the team for a match against the Shanghai Tigers later this year.
The 7th Annual Asian Championships of Australian Football, held on the 26th of August at Cibubur, just outside of Jakarta, have been hailed a great success by all involved and once again raised the bar on the standard of footy played.
As promised, the tournament produced high quality footy and evenly matched teams with the Singapore Wombats the standouts and eventual Grand Final winners, downing the Bali Geckos in a rematch of last year's Asian Champs Grand Final, 9.5.59 to 3.8.26 - Read on for Grand Final and Ladder results.